Haifa's Bahai Gardens are so breathstaking, you may just want to stop and stare for a few minutes when you arrive...
Photos don't really do the gardens justice.
The diversity of colors, the symmetry of the design, the way the gardens merge naturally with the slope of Carmel Mount, all combined with the panoramic sea view of Haifa are incredible.
The gardens are huge covering more than 200,000 square meters of trees and hedges, graveled paths, flowers and water fountains.
They cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build! Every year, 200 Bahai volunteer gardeners from around the world tend them.
But the gardens are not just beautiful to behold.
They were designed to inspire your soul as much as your eyes.
Everything in the garden is symbolic and represents the main tenets of the Bahai faith - the unity of all religions, the unity of all humanity and the beauty and unity of God's creation.
The trees and flowers in Bahai Gardens are from all over the world and represent the unity and diversity of mankind.
Nine is the holiest number in the Bahai faith.
There are 999 stately marble steps along the path from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the garden. The gentle sound of running water accompany from the waterfalls along the stairs. There are water fountains throughout Haifa Bahai gardens.
There are 19 landscaped terraces along the mountain incline, nine ascending from the Shrine in the center eof the gardens up the mountain and the rest descending down.
The Bahai volunteers working there are gentle and courteous. The atmosphere is almost other-worldly.
There are under 10 million followers of the Bahai Faith around the world.
Haifa Bahai Gardens is their world center, and was recognized in 2008 by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
The Bahai religion started in Persia 160 years ago when a local merchant Ali Muhammed Shirazi declared himself “Bab”’ or “the Gate." He considered himself an extension of the world's prophets such as Abraham, Krishna, Budhha, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, and that soon after him, the most important prophet Bahaullah will change the world forever.
The Bab was executed in Persia. One of his young followers, Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri became the Bahaullah. He called for the unification of all people into a single global community of believers.
Bahaullah was confined to the Ottoman Prison at Akko, where he spent 11 years of harsh imprisonment. Before he passed away in 1892, Bahaullah ordered his son and successor to bring and bury the remnants of Bab to the Holy Carmel Mountain where they belong, since the 'Bab' was the reincarnation of the Prophet Elijah.
Today the Bab's remains are in the golden domed shrine in the gardens. There other other beautifully designed buildings including the Bahai Universal House of Justice, the International Teaching Center and the Bahai International Archives.
There are Bahai Gardens in Akko (Acre) where the remains of the Bahaullah are enshrined.
They don't have the amazing views of Haifa Bahai Gardens, but they have an even greater variety of trees and flowers there.
Worth a visit if you have the time.
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